Waking from winter

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Kaempferia rotunda, or Indian crocus.

Walking up the mulched path this week, three of us discovered lavender/purple flowers that looked as if they had fallen from above and landed gently in the leaves. But overhead, there was no flowering vine or tree, so we went closer.

The cluster of flowers arose from the soil, and the nametag told us it was Kaempferia rotunda. Dormant over winter, like other Kaempferia species, this plant is from China, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and surrounding countries in south Asia. Patterned leaves will emerge after the flowers disappear, growing from an underground stem or rhizome. Kaempferias are in the ginger family.

Missouri Botanical Garden describes the complex flowers this way: “Each flower has purple-brown bracts at the base inside which the three-parted white calyx … can be seen. The petals are also white and they are fused at the base into a tube with widely spreading linear lobes (5.0 cm long). The purple petal-like structures are produced from the fusion of five sterile stamens (pollen producing structures) that are divided into two lobes that are 3.5 cm long and 2 cm long.”

There are several additional species and cultivars, including ‘Satin Cheeks’, planted in Plots 26, 27 and 28 near the shaving brush and floss silk trees, so watch for them as spring continues.